Friday, July 3, 2009

Belgica, Antarctic Expedition 1897

Date of Issue: September 22, 1997
Scott #: 1671

Issued to commemorate centenary of Belgian Antarctic Expedition 1897-1899.

Belgica - Originally named "Patria" was obtained and re-named Belgica for the Belgian Antarctic Expedition led by Commandant Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery of the Belgian Navy. The main aim of the expedition was to find the position of the South Magnetic Pole. The expedition was intended to be summer only, returning before the Antarctic winter began.

The Belgica left Antwerp on August 16th 1897. She crossed the Antarctic Circle on the 15th of Feb 1898 off Palmer Land on the Antarctic Peninsula. The men of the Belgica made the first ever land excursions into Antarctica, spending a week ashore in an attempt to travel inland.

After more than a year trapped in the ice, the crew again supervised by Amundsen and Frederick A. Cook, sawed a channel through the ice over a period of weeks to free the ship which could then return to Belgium.

Scientifically this was a success expedition, and they manage to map a lot of the coastline in Antarctic. What became of Belgica after the return to Norway is unfortunately unclear, but in April 1940 some information is available. When the Germans invaded Norway in April 1940, Belgica was requisitioned by the British forces, and was laid down at anchor in Brurvika outside the city of Harstad and used as an ammunition barge. While she laid at anchor there, loaded with ammunition, Harstad city were attacked by German airplanes. Belgica was damaged by the bombs that were dropped over the area, and even through she was not hit directly, she started to take in water and sank a while later. Belgica is today in a poor condition, but the remains are worth a visit. The wreck stands on her keel with a listing towards port side on a depth of twelve to twenty meters. The wreck is usually marked with a buoy, and Brurvika can be easily accessed from land.

Click here to see Belgica and explorers on stamps of Romania.

Source: and

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